Wanderers’ ‘compact’ defence key to form surge: Nico

A more compact defensive focus from Western Sydney Wanderers has been critical to their resurgence in March, according to Argentine attacking midfielder Nico Martinez.

The Wanderers have won three straight games in all competitions, including back-to-back 3-1 victories in the Hyundai A-League as they make a late push for a top-four finish.

Asked what has changed at Western Sydney, Martinez indicated there has been a slight change in tactics from coach Tony Popovic, while also underlying an improvement up front as critical to the Red-and-Black’s change in fortunes.

Hyundai A-League Team of the Week: Round 24

Who’ll make the Hyundai A-League’s top four?

“Maybe we were a little bit more compact and when we have the chances we score,” the Argentine said on Tuesday.

Wanderers playmaker Nico Martinez wins a header over Roy Krishna.

“Maybe before we have chances also but we didn’t score.”

Western Sydney have been one of the A-League’s most prolific passing sides this season but in their past two games have been well down on their season average of 438 passes per match.

Against Wellington Phoenix on March 19, the Wanderers passed the ball 341 times compared to the visitors’ 560, while City also had more of the ball last Friday with 488-359 passes.

Meanwhile, when the Wanderers have got the ball they have seemingly been a lot more effective with it, scoring three goals in their past three matches in all competitions.

Popovic’s men had only managed that in four of their 27 previous fixtures this term.

Suddenly some pundits and fans are labelling Western Sydney an outsider for the championship – the Wanderers are five points outside the top four with three games before the finals – and Martinez confirmed there is a buzz around the squad.

The Wanderers celebrate one of Brendon Santalab's two goals against the Phoenix on Sunday.

“It’s very high – the confidence – but this is because we understood how we must play, what the coach wants from us, we start doing it much better… and working like this, I think the important part is to be strong in the last two months, three months of the competition,” he said.

“We are going this way, I think, but we must continue with the same hard work that we make every day.”

Western Sydney visit Newcastle Jets on Saturday before completing the regular season with games against Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United.